In the past decade or so, New York City and other cultural meccas have been overrun with the highly-self aware, sometime sexy, sometimes ironic, revivals of burlesque shows. The va-va-voom, pasty-twirling, glove-slowly-removing phenomena seems to have attracted a geeky angle to it, as I’m constantly made aware of Doctor Who burlesque, Game of Thrones burlesque, Star Trek vs. Star Wars burlesque and so on.
So how do you make the most sexist action character of them all the centerpiece of a burlesque show and still make it sexy? Easy. You make James Bond a girl, you refer to him as a guy, and you write an awesome and funny script.
Pinchbottom Burlesque’s You Only Pinch Twice opens with a man playing cards in a casino with a beautiful woman. The man is doing a bad impression of the bad Sean Connery impressions we’ve all been hearing for the past forty years or so. Things go badly for the man as the woman he’s playing poker with eventually strips off her dress—not to reveal she’s naked—but that she’s wearing a tux! She declares the she is Bond—James Bond—and the show begins.
The opening number contains a fairly impressive live performance of a medley of all the James Bond theme songs, but with decidedly more suggestive lyrics. (How can you make James Bond more suggestive than before? I’d like to make some kind of sexy Bond pun here, but as this show reminded me, a lot of those don’t really make logical sense.) After we establish Bond returning to MI-6 the “plot” of the story is introduced.
What separates this fun night out of theatre from something like an XXX porn parody is its clever awareness that it is a piece of theatre! The folks writing this show are totally aware of the limitations of having a bunch of women and men doing strip-teases in the middle of the story for seemingly no reason. Even if it is a Bond-parody, gratuitous sex needs to be at least somewhat justified. To remedy that in the story, Bond is said to be infiltrating a burlesque troop in New York City to uncover a diamond-smuggling ring or…something.
Occasionally, this show-within-a-show notion is acknowledged outright on an almost third meta-fictional level when certain actors quibble with each other over just how much of it makes sense. I liked this, because I’d recently seen Moonraker and was shocked at just how little the beginning of the movie matched up with the end, and at how the dialogue between Bond and Drax acknowledged these plots holes outright! Pinchbottom’s You Only Pinch Twice lampoons these tendencies lovingly.
Even better, the show has a lot of deep-cut inside jokes for diehard James Bond afficionados (like me!) James Bond’s undercover name incorporates aspects of his alias “Sigmund Smythe” from A View to a Kill. Woody Allen, Christopher Walken, and Christopher Lee are all name-checked in one great scene, referencing not only two real Bond films, but also the spoof version of Casino Royale. A spoof-within-a-spoof! Is this thing with naked people dancing actually kind of smart? It is! My favorite Bond reference/dig comes during a moment when Bond is being driven in an invisible car. The dialogue goes something like this:
“An invisible car? Really? We’re going to probably have to re-market the whole franchise after something this ridiculous.”
This is inherently funny and plays well on stage, but even funnier when you know they’re making fun of the ridiculous invisible car from 2002’s Die Another Day.
As far as the sexy dancing goes, the performers are really, really good. From honest-to-goodness acrobatics, to traditional shimmying and shaking, to hilarious slow-motion fight-scenes, this is the kind of thing that reminds you why you go see live entertainment. Sure, the performers sometimes flub their lines, and not every move is perfect, but that’s part of the charm. The show is by no means X-rated, though they’re not completely R-rated, either. Full frontal nudity of both men and women happens here, with particular attention to the scenes inspired by Goldfinger (here a naked man dancing around on stage instead of a woman “turned to gold.”)
Most of the musical numbers are the actual classic versions of the Bond music, which is interesting because you realize immediately just how short those songs are. Hurry up and do that strip-tease! Of them all, I really, really found a scene in which Bond was cracking a safe and sneaking around to the “James Bond Theme” to be the funniest and hottest.
If you have a sense of humor about sex, Bond, and yourself, catch this show if you can. In terms of a cute, sexy, self-aware, talent-filled burlesque show, nobody does it better than this.
Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com.